COLUMBIA — For the first time in the long history of St. Martin de Porres Church, its parishioners rather than a religious order will be responsible for building a new church.
The first and second church structures were built by the Dominican priests who ministered in Columbia for many years. Once again the congregation has outgrown its worship space, and a new building is needed to accommodate the growth.
On Pentecost Sunday, May 30, Father Paul Williams, pastor at St. Martin de Porres, celebrated Mass at Adams Mark Hotel in Columbia. After dinner, the parish held a town meeting there to discuss the need for a new church.
“The people left the hotel fired up and ready to start the capital campaign,” the pastor said. “The people said, ‘Enough dialogue. Let’s get to work.’ ”
In only three months the parishioners have committed to approximately $700,000 in pledges with over $273,000 of that amount deposited in the bank.
Father Richard Harris, a member of the diocesan Building and Renovation Commission who is the project representative for St. Martin de Porres Church, was impressed by how quickly the parishioners have demonstrated their support for the building project.
“I consider their progress to be commendable for a parish of their size,” he said.
Father Harris will continue to guide St. Martin de Porres through the building process. They are preparing to make their first presentation before the commission.
Although nothing has been finalized, the parish has many ideas for the new building. Father Williams would like the church to have a seating capacity of 300, be equipped with a cry room, confessionals, a permanent area for baptisms, and an attached office space. Much depends on the support and approval that the project will receive at each step of the process.
The parishioners and previous pastors have all recognized the need for a larger church, and finally the time was right to get started, according to Williams.
“This coming year will be the 70th anniversary of the founding of the parish,” Father Williams said. “For the first time it will be the people of St. Martin de Porres who will be responsible for the building, and it will not be just for them but for the next generation.”